Midnight in Paris
Nostalgia is denial . Denial of the painful present. The name for this denial is golden age thinking, the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in. It’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.
When Paul lays bare the brutal truth, Gil(Owen Wilson) is yet to have hopped into the rabbit hole that takes him to Paris of the 1920s, his own wonderland. Gil, like most Woody Allen leads, is playing Woody Allen – his mouthpiece. And with this clearly in mind, you can’t help but chuckle when he says, “I am having trouble because I am a Hollywood hack who never gave real literature a shot“. But Gil is all for every kind of literature. The idea of transporting him to a 1920s Paris with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Picasso et al is like letting a kid into a ginormous play pen. The non-Paris world weariness that he constantly lives in vanishes as soon as he takes the carriage at midnight and as much as he is a misfit in that world(He sees insurmountable problem in “a man in love with a woman from a different era”), he flourishes because of his constant yearning for that fantasy.
But it’s Adriana, played with an infectious charm by Marion Cotillard who doubles up as the one who feeds Gil’s passion and also as the voice of his epiphany. She plays Pablo Picasso’s muse, possibly forgotten by the pages of history, who befriends Gil in his adventure as they are both drawn to each other. It’s through her that he realizes the issues with the present and the past, when she faces a problem similar to his. The film is terribly meta like most Allen films are. But it works wonderfully because the setting is so beautiful with Allen in fine form. It’s Woody Allen having a crack at himself when Hemingway looks at Adriana, then at Picasso and says, “You can see why he’s lost all objectivity“. As much as it is Gil’s utopia and as much as the world he imagines was once real, the word that we are looking for here is – weltschmerz. It really should have been titled Weltschmerz in Paris.
While Paris is revered and celebrated in Woody Allen’s latest, it is just one of the several problems for Annie(Kristen Wiig) as she prepares to take Helen(a lovely Rose Byrne playing a not so lovely character) head on in their best friend Lillian’s wedding planning. As tolerant(actually I love them) as I am for romantic comedies and chick flicks, Bridesmaids comes with the added tag of Judd Apatow. He is only the producer here but his films usually have the familial sensibilities that I immensely identify with and it is no different here. It’s when Helen presents Lillian a trip to her dream venue Paris, as wedding gift – the knowledge of which was provided only by Annie – that Annie reaches breaking point and completely loses it.
The setting is predictably chick-flicky here(you need anything beyond the title for that?) – wedding, friends and best friends, protagonist with the job and money problems, protagonist with the awesome asshole vs not-so-awesome deserving gentleman relationship problem, ego clashes and the works. It’s not like if people could just talk it through that we wouldn’t have a plot or a film anymore. These are real problems that Annie faces as she finds herself penniless and friendless with new found high profile acquaintances and a big wedding looming large in front of her. But the writing here is much too refreshingly raw and gross in places that you leave the imaginary world of chick flicks and enter something more real but with the same people. The whole Annie and Rhodes arc is beautifully done, something a film like Bad Teacher missed with its Jason Segel character. Honesty is what solves the problems of several people in Bridesmaids and that’s what comes through from the writing as well – “Why can’t you be happy for me and then go home and talk about me behind my back like a normal person?”